J O U R N E Y S
A Scripture Reflection Series for LGBTQ People and Allies
“I tell you now that I will lead you out of your oppression… to a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:17)
JOURNEYS is an invitation to walk with our ancestors, discover the great source of love, and celebrate our identities as children of God and LGBTQ persons and allies of faith. Each item below contains a section of Scripture, followed by questions for reflection. These questions can be used for personal meditation, journaling, or group conversations.
With these scripture passages, you can travel through the sands of the Bible and find your place in the Divine Story. Whether you are fleeing from “hardened” Pharaohs (Exodus 14:8), feel the urge to dance with abandon (2 Samuel 6) or pray with a heavy heart (Luke 22:41) these passages encourage you to wrestle with God and “not let go until you feel the divine blessing” (Genesis 32: 22-32).
Genesis: Being Created – Genesis 1:26-31; Genesis 2:8, 15, 18-25
Joseph: sent ahead by God to preserve life – Genesis 45:1-5
Esther: a “coming-out” story
Doubt, Faith, Scars, Life – John 20: 19-31
The Animated, Extravagant and Flamboyant Spirit of God – Acts 2:1-11
The Body (Of Christ) – Romans 12
1 Corinthians 13: What is this thing called LOVE?
Year A (and C)
Lead us not into Temptation -Mt 4:1-11(1st Sunday, Year A); Lk 4:1-13(1st Sunday, Year C)
trans·fig·u·ra·tion – Matthew 17:1-9 (2nd Sunday, Year A; Lk 9:28-43 (2nd Sunday, Year C)
The Woman at the Well – John 4: 5-30 (3rd Sunday, Year A)
The Blind Beggar – John 9:1-41 / Mark 10:46-52 (4th Sunday, Year A)
Lazarus: The Man Jesus Loved – John 11:17-44 (5th Sunday, Year A)
L I F E L I N E – Genesis 9: 8-15 (1st Sunday, Year B)
The Suffering Servant – Mark 15:1-39 (2nd Sunday, Year B)
The Foolishness of God – 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 (3rd Sunday, Year B)
Coming Out Into the Light – John 3:14-21 (4th Sunday, Year B)
i-den-ti-ty – John 12:20-33 (5th Sunday, Year B)
Exodus: Of Pride and Marches – Exodus 3:1-12 (3rd Sunday, Year C)
Coming Home to Where Mercy Becomes Flesh – Luke 15:11-32 (4th Sunday, Year C)
The Oil of Gladness – Luke 7:36-50 / John 12: 1-8 (5th Sunday, Year C)
Lessons from the Fig Tree – Mark 13:24-37 (1st Sunday, Year B)
The Man Who Pointed to Christ – Mark 1:1-8 (2nd Sunday, Year B)
Oaks of Righteousness – Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8, 10-11 (3rd Sunday, Year B)
The Woman Who Said Yes to God – Luke 1:26-38 (4th Sunday, Year B)
The Second Coming of Jesus – Luke 21:25-28, 34-36 (1st Sunday, Year C)
The People of God in Exile – Luke 3:1-6 (2nd Sunday, Year C)
Wear the Color Pink and Rejoice – Zeph 5:1-4a; Luke 3:10-18 (3rd Sunday, Year C)
The Visitation: Family Stories and Traditions – Luke 1:39-45 (4th Sunday, Year C)
Feel free to download these scripture passages and reflection questions for personal use. You can download an individual reflection by opening the reflection and then clicking the download button for it.
If used communally, we would appreciate the following acknowledgment – “This material was prepared by New Ways Ministry, an affirming ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics, and reconciliation within the larger Catholic and civil communities.”
New Ways Ministry
4012 29th Street
Mount Rainier, MD 20712
GENESIS: Being Created
That every single person has inherent value is the doctrine expressed at the very beginning of the book of Genesis. Being created in the image of God also includes the capacity for relationships (with God and others) and most importantly, that the one who is created is the visible representation of an invisible God.
JOSEPH: sent ahead by God to preserve life
The story of Joseph in the Hebrew Scriptures is a narrative of self-revelation – of one being sent ahead by God to preserve life and restore and reconcile the family of Israel.
The story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, can resonate with some members of the LGBTQ community who have been rejected by family and faith community, as Joseph was. By “coming out” to his family in Egypt, Joseph restores broken relationships and renews bonds that can now be mutual and life-sustaining – but only because his heart has grown large enough to forgive.
This psalm is a song of confidence and triumph. Yet, each verse also prompts new reflections about who God is and where God might be discerned.
While the psalmist professes unyielding trust in God, the psalm is also delicately personal and paints God as approachable, caring, and radiant with beauty.
ESTHER: a “coming-out” story
The Book of Esther is a story of how Queen Esther, the Jewish wife of the Persian King Ahasuerus, implores the monarch to retract an edict that orders the annihilation of all the exiled Jews in the empire.
While the entire Book of Esther makes for fascinating reading, the essence of the story of Esther, especially for the LGBT community, is how fear and unease can easily force a person into a “closet.”
As the drama unfolds, and the divine plan is introduced, Esther must “come out” for God’s plan of salvation to be fulfilled. She is only able to do so after a period of fasting and prayer.
Doubt, Faith, Scars, Life
How does one navigate the biblical paradox between doubt and faith? Is doubt a threat to faith or essential for the very confession of faith?
The Animated, Extravagant and Flamboyant Spirit of God
Pentecost is the day when the animated, extravagant and flamboyant Spirit of God explodes out into the streets with violent winds and a blazing fire that descends and rests on each and every person regardless of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, sex, gender, expression, gender-identity or sexual orientation.
Pentecost is the day when the animated, extravagant and flamboyant Spirit of God emboldens the People of God to prophesy, dream dreams, and see visions.
Pentecost is the day when the animated, extravagant and flamboyant Spirit of God blesses the church with a new and compassionate heart to be God’s healings, miracles and marvels on earth.
The Body (of Christ)
She is the body of Christ on earth – born amidst tribulation, under jealous skies. Cradled in her innocence and guarded for Christ’s purpose. She grows in wisdom and stature with victory on her lips and freedom in her hands. Hers is an unstoppable cause. She embraces the world with dignity, honor and compassion; gives vision to the sightless and life to the dying.
1 CORINTHIANS 13: What is this thing called LOVE?
While Cole Porter may be best known for witty lyrics as frothy as champagne, in his most thoughtful songs he seems to stand in awe, both confounded and captivated, by an emotion that defies understanding:
What is this thing called love
This funny thing called love
Just who can solve its mystery
Why should it make a fool of me?
1 Corinthians 13 takes on the question – “What is Love?” – and the apostle Paul goes on to paint a beautiful picture of the love he desires in us all.
Come Back to Me
Perhaps one of the best promises in all of scripture is one that speaks specifically to the restoration of a “sinful person”: “Come back to me with all your heart… for I am gracious and deeply loving as a mother, quick to forgive and abundantly tender-hearted…” (Joel 2:12-13)
As an invitation to the season of Lent, these words from the Book of Joel are an open embrace to return to Love’s Source. And even though the journey begins with ashes and invites us to step into that which is arid and bare, the road into the wilderness, in fact, opens up into vast expanse of sacred, recuperative space.
In this stark emptiness of desert, “fasting, weeping and mourning” (Joel 2:12) gives way to the “oil of gladness instead of tears, a cloak of praise instead of despair” (Isaiah 61:3).
Lead Us Not Into Temptation
The words “lead us not into temptation” from the Gospel of Matthew (6:13) wholeheartedly petition a loving God to deliver us from any circumstances that would lead us to sin.
Some translations substitute the word “temptation” with “test” suggesting a “trial” one must faithfully endure. Examples of such trials include the “testing” of Abraham’s faith as he is called to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22: 1-2), putting Job to the “test” (Job 1:6-12) or even Jesus’ entry into the wilderness to be “tested” by the Devil (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1).
As we enter the season of Lent, take a moment to reflect on what part temptations and tests play in your spiritual life.
a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state
Each time we disclose a truth about ourselves, we part a veil. By doing so, we invite others to come into our lives and make contact with us. Parting any veil forces a degree of vulnerability and demands unimaginable trust and faith.
By inviting Peter, John, and James up to the mountain, Jesus extends to them the unexpected privilege to see himself transfigured in all his glorious splendor. So dazzling was this visual feast that Peter’s desire to build three tents – one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, suggests nothing but a longing for God’s revelation to linger and stay.
In the LGBTQ community, “coming-out,” self-revelation or “transfiguration” are part of a lifelong journey of understanding, acknowledging and sharing one’s gender identity and/or sexual orientation. It may be easy for some, or longer and more difficult for others. While many are eternally grateful for the amount of support and empathy they receive from friends and family, some share “coming-out” stories that are heartbreaking and heavy to hear.
By reflecting on the Gospel text of Jesus’ transfiguration allow yourself the time to revisit your own “coming-out” journey, whether as an LGBTQ person or an ally. Revisit the times that others have come out to you. Chances are you may discover God’s hidden graces, blessings and learnings that perhaps eluded you before.
The Woman at the Well
“She is of mature age, and has had a not altogether reputable past. She is frivolous, ready to talk with strangers, with a tongue quick to turn grave things into jests; and yet she possesses, hidden beneath masses of unclean vanities, a conscience and a yearning for something better than she has, which Christ’s words awoke and which were finally so enkindled as to make her fit to receive the full declaration of His Messiahship, with which Pharisees and priests could not be trusted.”
The Blind Beggar
“Bartimaeus is blind and has no one to listen to him. Jesus hears his plea. When he goes to him, he lets him speak. It was not hard to guess what Bartimaeus wanted – clearly, a blind person wants to see or regain his sight. But Jesus takes his time; he takes time to listen. This is the first step in helping the journey of faith: listening. It is the apostolate of the ear: listening before speaking.” – Pope Francis, October 28, 2018
LGBTQ persons and allies want to be listened to by others in our church. Can the story of The Blind Beggar, challenge LGBT persons and allies to develop the apostolate of the ear so that we can listen to others, too?
LAZARUS: The Man Jesus Loved
In the raising of Lazarus, the Gospel of John exemplifies the decisive power of Jesus over humanity’s last and most dictating enemy – death.
For the LGBTQ community, this resurrection story may well come to symbolize God’s promise of life to those excluded, marginalized or emotionally imprisoned. “Lazarus, come out!” commands Jesus in a loud voice, and to the people around, Jesus further directs, “Unbind him, and let him go!”
“surely this one was innocent”
Soon after Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a wave of triumph, to shouts of hosannas and swaying palms, the mood shifts. A crowd that once cheered him on, now cries, “Crucify him! Crucify him.”
The crowd expected a “king.” They expected a “conqueror” and a “savior.” Prodded by echoes of Zechariah 9, which says, “see, your ruler comes to you victorious and triumphant…,” they expected the Messiah to fulfill their expectations. They anticipated an end to Roman occupation, the restoration of Israel and the promise of a victorious reign. But that was not Jesus’ way of establishing God’s reign of justice and peace.
One subtle “expectation” in many churches today is that every child who is baptized will grow up to lead a heteronormative life. When these expectations miscarry and a child later ackowledges an LGBTQ identity, the mood often shifts.
So what happens, then, in a world where expectations of God, the Catholic Church, each other, and the LGBTQ community clash? Perhaps a portion of the gospel proclaimed today on Palm Sunday offers some answers.
L I F E L I N E
The most recognized passage of the Bible that references a rainbow is Chapter 9 of the book of Genesis, which concludes the great flood of 40 days and 40 nights. From verse 8 onwards, the author writes of a covenant that is being established between God, on one hand, and Noah, his descendants, and all living creatures, on the other. The rainbow is the sign of the covenant, and it carries with it a pledge that never again shall floodwaters destroy life on earth. In a way, the rainbow is a lifeline between God and humanity.
The Suffering Servant
In today’s gospel, Jesus, by his silent fortitude, plays the role of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Deserted by his disciples, condemned by religious and secular authorities, Jesus dies quite alone with a cry of desolation. It is only after his death that the prayer he raised to Abba God in Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-36) receives an answer: the veil of the temple is torn and the centurion declares, “Truly, this was God’s Own.”
Many LGBTQ people and allies lead lives of hushed fortitude. Their identities remain a secret, and stories of being deserted by family or condemned by religious and secular authorities are all too common. Prayers may feel like they go unanswered, and sadly, oftentimes, death is the only catalyst by which justice or recognition is accorded them.
In playing the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, though, Jesus fulfills scripture triumphantly and the Reign of God is initiated. In Romans 8:18, Saint Paul writes, “What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to us.” With such a joyful promise in store, how might we lift up our LGBTQ/ally lives this Holy Week and acclaim, “Blessed is the coming reign of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:10)?
The Foolishness of God
Perhaps no one embodies the foolishness of God more than St. Francis of Assisi. Sean Fitzpatrick writes, “St. Francis’ extremism may have appeared wild, but it rendered the multitude of stars and beasts his brothers and sisters, every peasant a king, and every stone a building block for a holy edifice. St. Francis’ earthly extremism, his holy folly, was characterized by a heavenly optimism and the freedom and felicity that comes with being a fool for Christ’s sake.”
As a reflection on St. Francis of Assisi and the foolishness of God – where the highest of realities can be witnessed in the lowest of forms – the readings for the Third Sunday of Lent extend an offbeat, St. Francis-like invitation to flip all the wisdoms of the world, and discover, instead, the happiness of simplicity, the pleasures of charity, and the richness of poverty — the gifts of Lent.
Coming Out Into the Light
The sandals came off first, marking the parameters of holy ground. The lamp cast its expanding glow, pushing shadows stubbornly up against the wall, and even though the neighborhood was asleep, the Spirit of God was ready to be roused.
Nicodemus approached Jesus under the cover of darkness, sneaking off to engage the man behind the miracles (John 3). As a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, this Pharisee would have been ostracized if he were discovered in the company of Jesus. A spirit of inquiry, however, inflamed the man to seek out the Chosen One and discover the truth behind the Christ.
The conversation that followed ended not in darkness but in light.
Who am I?
This may be one of the most persistent and far-reaching of all questions and might be why Socrates asserted tirelessly, “Know thyself!” Even Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), seems secondary. “Being” is more elemental than “knowing.”
The two accounts of creation in the Book of Genesis reveal God’s purpose for humanity. It is a religious vision concerned exclusively with the divine message that a human person (including Jesus, as God’s beloved – Matthew 3:17) find their fulfilment in YHWH (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1730-1742).
The human person (Adam) made in God’s image and likeness has, from the very beginning, been created for relationship: first of all with God, and then with other persons (Eve). Being created in God’s image and likeness, the human person has also been created free, for only in freedom can there be a true relationship of love in which each of the lovers takes delight in the mystery of the other.
Human freedom, however free, is ultimately conditional. It is at the service of values. It is freedom for: for others, for service, for relationship…
EXODUS: Of Pride and Marches
The book of Exodus is a journey from slavery to freedom. Enslaved by the Pharaoh of Egypt, the Israelites suffer heavy burdens until the prophet Moses, chosen by God, commands the Pharaoh – “Let my people go!” What follows, is a journey out of Egypt and into the wilderness for 40 years. Rather than being a nation lost in the desert though, the book of Exodus evolves into entering a covenant with God, being formed as God’s people and discovering who they truly are as God’s pride.
Coming Home to Where Mercy Becomes Flesh
Referring to Rembrandt’s,“The Return of the Prodigal Son,” Henri Nouwen writes, “The true center of Rembrandt’s painting is the hands of the father. On them all light is concentrated; on them the eyes of the bystanders are focused; in them mercy becomes flesh; upon them forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing come together, and, through them, not only the tired son, but also the worn-out father find their rest.”
The greater insight though, comes from one of Henri Nouwen’s friends, Sr. Sue Mosteller, who comments, “Whether you (see yourself as) the younger son or the elder son, you have to realize that you are called to become the father.”
Opportunities to “become the father” from this story abound for us during this season of Lent.
The Oil of Gladness
In the Gospel story of the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36-50), two characters are pitched against each other: Simon, the Pharisee, and a woman of low reputation.
As a Pharisee, Simon likely had acquired serious theological acumen and a mastery of scripture. He would have exercised rigorous self-discipline and tithed meticulously. His time “serving” God was probably validated by the respect he received as a godly man. Yet he did not “love” God. His hospitality was cavalier and his appraisal of Jesus contemptuous.
By contrast, the woman was nameless, weighted with sin and pronounced of low repute. Yet she emerges as a model of extravagant worship.
Read on to discover how a sinner’s repentance becomes her saving oil of gladness.
The Woman Caught in Adultery
Caught in the act of adultery, dragged naked by force into a public gathering place, humiliated by her sin, separated from anyone to protect her, judged and sentenced to death without trial by self-righteous leaders, and then placed before Jesus hoping to discredit him, is how the apostle John describes the opening scene of The Woman Caught in Adultery.
But then something unexpected happens.
Lessons from the Fig Tree
“Take a lesson from the fig tree: as soon as its branches grow tender and its leaves sprout, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things happening, you know that the Promised One is near, right at the door.” (Mark 13:28-29).
The Man who Pointed to Christ
His name was divinely inspired. His endorsement came from Jesus, Himself (Matthew 11:11), and centuries before his birth, the prophet Isaiah foretold that his radical voice would cry out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of YHWH; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3).
Oaks of Righteousness
Israel, clothed with robes of deliverance, will be like oaks of righteousness, planted by YHWH to display God’s glory.
The allusion to mighty oaks, seeded by tiny acorns, conveys unbounded potential. Moreover, the magnificence of oak and its associations with life, strength, wisdom, nobility, loyalty, longevity, heritage and honor, symbolizes a God who delights in extravagant blessing.
The Woman Who Said Yes to God
The unusually expressive painting of Botticelli’s Annunciation invites an ocular meditation on how Mary is transformed spiritually by Christ’s incarnation.
Mary’s twisting posture is central to Botticelli’s aesthetic blueprint and visual theology. With angel Gabriel’s announcement, Mary responds with both awe and angst– simultaneously vulnerable and gracious. Her free and fluid movement suggests the metamorphosis that is unfolding within her as she is being blessed by God.
As Gabriel’s hand is raised in benediction, Mary reaches out to accept the divine offering creating a spiritually charged space between the two hands. Could this be a depiction of the incarnation as an act of the invisible God entering into our world?
Choice and freedom are central to the Annunciation story. Mary’s consent was needed. God waited. Mary was free to accept or refuse.
As you meditate on Botticelli’s Annunciation this Fourth Sunday in Advent, how will you answer the request to birth God?
The Second Coming of Jesus
The liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany are rich occasions to reconnect with scripture and renew faith in the Risen Christ. From the Incarnation to the Second Coming of Jesus, and all the prophecy and history in-between, lies a grand story filled with lush symbols that reinforce God’s unwavering promises of hope, love, joy and peace.
From the readings of the liturgy of the first Sunday of Advent, the text of Luke 21 can seem a little horrific. It speaks of astronomic and sweeping displays of creational upheaval where “the powers of heaven will be shaken.” Surviving this volcanic chaos will be a challenge, but embedded in this Gospel story are also directives on how to “stand erect with head held high” and own your redemption.
The People of God in Exile
When discussing John the Baptist, all four gospels reiterate the powerful metaphor of the words of Isaiah: “Yahweh will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel” (11:12). These images of the Messiah’s forerunner present the birth of Jesus as a homecoming for all those alienated and dislocated. For the Jewish exiles in Babylon whom Isaiah is addressing in 8th century BCE, his poetry is a vision of wholeness, embracing freedom, peace, and a sense of being home again in Jerusalem.
In 21st century CE, a Central American caravan of exiles, which includes LGBT refugees, gather at the southern border of the United States and wait. In Asia, Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya minority, trapped in exile in the forests of Bangladesh, struggle for the right to return home. And around the globe, criminalized and abused LGBT people flee their homelands to protect their lives and safety.
On this Second Sunday of Advent, the voice of one crying out in the desert takes on a renewed urgency: how does one “prepare the way” while so many remain alienated and dislocated?
Wear the Color Pink and Rejoice
On May 31, 2018, TIME magazine carried the article, “How the Nazi Regime’s Pink Triangle Symbol Was Repurposed for LGBTQ Pride.” In the article Olivia B. Waxman writes, “Just as the Nazis forced Jewish people to wear a yellow Star of David, they forced people they labeled as gay to wear inverted pink triangles (or ‘die Rosa-Winkel’). Those thus branded were treated as “the lowest of the low in the camp hierarchy,” as one scholar put it.
Waxman adds, “More recently, pink triangles have been visible during gay rights demonstrations worldwide…” and what was once a historical trademark of persecution and discrimination is now a patent of LGBT survival and pride.
The liturgical color for the third Sunday of Advent is pink symbolized by the pink candle that is lit on advent wreaths instead of purple. The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday; “Gaudete” means “Rejoice.” The scripture texts for this Sunday energetically shout-out the promises of hope (from despair), restoration (from destruction), liberation (from oppression) and joy (from fear) giving all a reason to proudly wear the color pink and rejoice.
THE VISITATION: Family Stories and Traditions
Every family has unique and cherished traditions and stories. The oldest members are often the keepers of these riches and pass them on from generation to generation keeping alive a treasured link between past, present, and future.
By including the story of Mary visiting her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth, the Gospel writer Luke gives us a rare glimpse into female friendship, motherhood, and familial support. The LGBT community is a big family, and, as such, it offers the potential for a collective story and tradition. This Sunday of Advent opens up the perfect space to reflect on your own story and tradition, and knot it into the threads of the great LGBT story.
The JOURNEYS series has been prepared by